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outline given of their lives during each preceding year, we should have materials not merely for the curious to gaze at, but which might elucidate the problem of how far the mind reacts upon the countenance. We should see the effects of pain or pleasure, of idleness or activity, of dissipation or study, and thus watch the action of the various passions of the mind in modifying the form of the body, and particularly the expression of the features.” Now that photography is so widespread and so greatly improved, it is rather curious that nothing of this kind has been done. Some of our numerous scientific societies might offer to take such photographs of any of their members who would agree to be taken regularly, and would undertake to have one or two of their children similarly taken till they came of age, and also to prepare a very short record each year of the main events or occupations of their lives. If this were widely done in every part of the country, a most interesting and instructive collection of those series which were most complete would be obtained. I have given the concluding passage of the lecture as it appears in the rough draft, which never got rewritten. “Can we believe that we are fulfilling the purpose of our existence while so many of the wonders and beauties of the creation remain unnoticed around us 2 While so much of the mystery which man has been able to penetrate, however imperfectly, is still all dark to us * While so many of the laws which govern the universe and which influence our lives are, by us, unknown and uncared for 2 And this not because we want the power, but the will, to acquaint ourselves with them. Can we think it right that, with the key to so much that we ought to know, and that we should be the better for knowing, in our possession, we seek not to open the door, but allow this great store of mental wealth to lie unused, producing no return to us, while our highest powers and capacities rust for want of use P “It is true that man is still, as he always has been, subject to error; his judgments are often incorrect, his beliefs false, his opinions changeable from age to age. But experience of error is his best guide to truth, often dearly bought, and, therefore, the more to be relied upon. And what is it but the accumulated experience of past ages that serves us as a beacon light to warn us from error, to guide us in the way of truth. How little should we know had the knowledge acquired by each preceding age died with it ! How blindly should we grope our way in the same obscurity as did our ancestors, pursue the same phantoms, make the same fatal blunders, encounter the same perils, in order to purchase the same truths which had been already acquired by the same process, and lost again and again in bygone ages 1 But the wonderworking press prevents this loss; truths once acquired are treasured up by it for posterity, and each succeeding generation adds something to the stock of acquired knowledge, so that our acquaintance with the works of nature is ever increasing, the range of our inquiries is extended each age, the power of mind over matter becomes, year by year, more complete. Yet our horizon ever widens, the limits to our advance seem more distant than ever, and there seems nothing too noble, too exalted, too marvellous, for the ever-increasing knowledge of future generations to attain to. “Is it not fitting that, as intellectual beings with such high powers, we should each of us acquire a knowledge of what past generations have taught us, so that, should the opportunity occur, we may be able to add somewhat, however small, to the fund of instruction for posterity? Shall we not then feel the satisfaction of having done all in our power to improve by culture those higher faculties that distinguish us from the brutes, that none of the talents with which we may have been gifted have been suffered to lie altogether idle P And, lastly, can any reflecting mind have a doubt that, by improving to the utmost the nobler faculties of our nature in this world, we shall be the better fitted to enter upon and enjoy whatever new state of being the future may have in store for us?” These platitudes are of no particular interest, except as showing the bent of my mind at that period, and as indicating a disposition for discursive reading and study, which has been
a great advantage to myself, and which has enabled me to write on a variety of subjects without committing any very grievous blunders (so far as my critics have pointed out), and with, I hope, some little profit to my readers.
The only other subject on which I attempted to write at this time was on the manners and customs of the Welsh peasantry as they had come under my personal observation in Brecknockshire and Glamorganshire. I have already described how I came to take some interest in agriculture while surveying in Bedfordshire and the adjacent counties, and this interest was increased by a careful study of Sir Humphry Davy’s “Lectures on Agricultural Chemistry,” which I met with soon afterwards. I was, therefore, the better able to compare the high-class farming of the home counties with that of the ignorant Welshmen, under all the disadvantages of a poor soil and adverse climate, of distant markets, and the almost entire absence of what the English farmer would consider capital.
Having lived for more than a year on an average Welsh farm at Bryn-coch, while we had often lodged with small farmers and labourers, or at public-houses whose landlords almost always farmed a little land, I got to know a good deal about their ways, and adding to this my own observation of the kind of land they had to farm, and the difficulties under which they laboured, I felt inclined to write a short account of them in the hope that I might perhaps get it accepted by some magazine as being sufficiently interesting for publication. I wrote it out fairly with this intention, and two years afterwards, when in London, I took it to the editor of a magazine (I forget which) who promised to look over it. He returned it in a few days with the remark that it seemed more suited for an agricultural journal than for a popular magazine. I made no other offer of it, and as it was my first serious attempt at writing, though I am afraid it is rather dull, I present it to my readers as one of the landmarks in my literary career. I may add that I have recently visited the Upper Vale of Neath, and renewed my acquaintance with
its picturesque scenery. The chief differences that I saw are that some of the smaller farm houses and cottages are in ruins, and that the farms seem to be somewhat larger. Where the ground is fairly level the mowing machine is now used, but in the condition of the farm-yards and the style of the houses I see no advance whatever. Some of the old customs have vanished, for I was unable to obtain any flummery, and on my inquiry for bake-stone bread I found that it was now rarely made. A cake was, however, prepared specially for me, but being made of white American flour it had not the flavour of that which I used so much to enjoy made from the brown flour of home-grown wheat.
THE SOUTH-WALES FARMER
IN the following pages I have endeavoured to give a correct idea of the habits, manners, and mode of life of the Welsh hill farmer, a class which, on account of the late Rebecca disturbances, has excited much interest. Having spent some years in Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Glamorganshire, and other parts of South Wales, and been frequently in the dwellings of the farmers and country people, and had many opportunities of observing their customs and manners, all that I here mention is from my own observation, or obtained by conversation with the parties. I have taken Glamorganshire as the locality of most of what I describe, as I am best acquainted with that part and the borders of Carmarthenshire, where the recent disturbances have been most prominent. Whenever there is any great difference in neighbouring counties I have noticed it. I may here observe that in Radnorshire the Welsh manners are in a great measure lost with the language, which is entirely English, spoken with more purity than in many parts of England, with the exception of those parts bordering Cardiganshire and Brecknockshire, where the Welsh is still used among the old people, the River Wye, which is the boundary of the latter county and Radnorshire, in its course between Rhayader Gwy and the Hay, also separates the two languages. On the Radnorshire side of the river you will find in nine houses
out of ten English commonly spoken, while directly you have crossed the river, there is as great or a still greater preponderance of Welsh. In the country a few miles round the seaport town of Swansea most of the peculiarities I shall mention may be seen to advantage. In the east and south-eastern parts of Glamorganshire, called the Vale of Glamorgan, the appearance of the country and the inhabitants is much more like those of England. The land is very good and fertile, agriculture is much attended to and practised on much better principles. This part, therefore (the neighbourhood of the towns of Cowbridge and Cardiff), is excepted from the following remarks.
THE SOUTH-WALES FARMER: His MoDEs of AGRICULTURE, DOMESTIC LIFE, CUSTOMS, AND CHARACTER.
THE generality of mountain farms in Glamorganshire and most other parts of South Wales are small, though they may appear large when the number of acres only is considered, a large proportion being frequently rough mountain land. On the average they consist of from twenty to fifty acres of arable land in fields of from four to six, and rarely so much as ten acres; the same quantity of rough, boggy, bushy, rushy pasture, and perhaps as much, or twice as much, short-hay meadow, which term will be explained hereafter; and from fifty to five hundred acres of rough mountain pasture, on which sheep and cattle are turned to pick up their living as they can. Their system of farming is as poor as the land they cultivate. In it we see all the results of carelessness, prejudice, and complete ignorance. We see the principle of doing as well as those who went before them, and no better, in full operation ; the good old system which teaches us not to suppose ourselves capable of improving on the wisdom of our forefathers, and which has made the early polished nations of the East so inferior in every respect to us, whose reclamation from barbarism is ephemeral compared with their long period of almost stationary civilization. The Welshman, when you recommend any improvement in his operations, will tell you, like the Chinaman, that it is an “old custom,” and that what did for his forefathers is good enough for him. But let us see if the farmer is so bad as this mode of doing his business may be supposed to make him. In his farmyard we find the buildings with broken and gaping doors, and the floors of the roughest pitching. In one corner is a putrid pond, the overflowings of which empty themselves into the brook below. Into this all the drainings from the dungheaps in the upper part of the yard run, and thus, by evaporation in summer and the running into the brook in winter, full one-half of the small quantity of manure he can obtain (from his cattle spending the greater part of their time on the mountain and in wet bushy pastures) is lost. The management of his arable land is dreadfully wasteful and injurious.